COLUMBUS, Ohio A recent study shows that popular fish oil supplements have an effect on the healing process of small, acute wounds in human skin. But whether that effect is detrimental, as researchers initially suspected, remains a mystery.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils are widely considered to benefit cardiovascular health and other diseases related to chronic inflammation because of their anti-inflammatory properties. But insufficient inflammation during the initial stage of wound healing may delay the advancement of later stages.
In the study, blister wounds on the arms of people taking fish oil supplements were compared to the wounds of people taking a placebo. The wounds healed in about the same amount of time but at the local cellular level, something unexpected happened. The levels of proteins associated with initiating and sustaining inflammation were higher in the blister fluid in people who had taken the active fish oil supplements. The researchers had expected those proteins to be lowered by the increased systemic presence of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.
"That finding was hard to explain," said Jodi McDaniel, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of nursing at Ohio State University. "These proteins may have other functions that we don't yet fully understand. And our results also suggested there could be a difference between men and women in the amount of inflammatory proteins that are produced, because on average, women had lower levels of one of the proteins."
If the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the fish oils do indeed delay acute wound healing, then they probably should be discontinued for awhile by patients scheduled for surgery, McDaniel said. They appear to have enough of an effect that patients should at least inform their doctors if they're taking a fish oil supplement, she added.
But there could still be a bright side to the supplements' ability to alter those
|Contact: Jodi McDaniel|
Ohio State University